Two days ago on Wednesday the most eminent visionary and dreamer of the last century passed away in Sri lanka. Arthur C. Clarke was not just the man who gave us fascinating works like “2001 A Space Odyssey (originally his book “The Sentinel”) but he was a visionary of the highest degree.
When he was a child growing up in western england he would buy space rags, or old comics which made their way to England from America as the ballast of ships, which he would buy for 3 pennies each and dream about space and its exploration.
Not many people know that during World War II Clarke was young officer in the Royal Airforce. In 1945 he proposed that geo stationary satellites would become the communication media controllers of the next age. Without his vision we would not have GPS or global communication or so many of the other things which we take for granted today.
Many also do not know that in 1952 his book “the Exploration of space” was used by rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun to convince President John F. Kennedy that it was possible to go to the Moon.
In a 1962 edition of Life magazine, he predicted th use of cell phones and how they would link the world together so densely that individuals would not be able to escape the clutches of society even if they wanted to. He also spoke at that time of electronic libraries and Hi Def Electronic screens.
Needless to say, not every person gets it right when they dream, for we all know that the flights of fancy we engage in sometimes help us fall quite flat on our faces. For example the chairmen of IBM T.J Watson once predicted that the world would need at the most 5 computers.
In short this was a man so brilliant, so astute in his knowledge of technology and what the future might bring, that many of his dreams turned into a reality in front of his own eyes. Some even pioneered by him. The space elevator is another one of his yet unrealized dreams which can be used to jettison payloads into space with a fraction of the cost of today’s method, that of burning thousands of tons of rocket fuel. It is currently in development and will use a cable 50,000 kms long.
If it were up to him, we would already have a super computer capable of artificial intelligence to the level of his character HAL. His end would have been perhaps a transfer of his grey matter into the digitized world so he could live on inside his creation as his body gave up, but this was not to be.
As a Sci Fi fan i would like to take this moment to salute one of my hero’s Arthur C. Clarke may you always live on with us through your words and work. May your life continue to give confidence to those who dare to dream.
P.S Till the end he also believed that we are not alone, suffice to say he was hardly ever wrong about such things.
Wikepedia & numerous articles available on A.C.Clarke and his life on the internet